They move out of Avengers Tower, back to Brooklyn, and it’s the best damn decision they’ve made in a while. This Brooklyn is a world away from the one they grew up in, but it still feels like home to Bucky in a way that loosens something in his chest, makes his days easier in the same way that sleeping beside Steve makes his nights easier. Even on his worst days, when Steve is away on Avengers business and he sleeps the morning away because the dark is filled with nightmares, Bucky can make it as far as the front stoop, spending the afternoons watching ebb and flow of people, and it helps.
The first time he’d shown his hand — literally — one hot summer afternoon, he’d attracted a gaggle of kids pretty rapidly.
"Can you crush a car?" one had asked, transfixed by the sight of Bucky sipping his coffee. Bucky had considered that. It’d take a while, but, "Yes."
"Could you take on the Hulk?" That’s not something he and Bruce ever wanted to test. Bucky would lose, for a start. "No one can take on the Hulk."
"Is it bullet proof?" "Sort of. Enough."
"How much can you lift?" HYDRA had forced him to test that until the plates had warped and his shoulder had been a hot ball of agony. They hadn’t deigned to show him the exact results. "A lot."
It was the adults who had asked the more pertinent questions: “You live with Steve, don’t you?” asked the young mom — Louise, building across the street, second floor — who came to drag her children home.
"Yes, ma’am," he’d said. He’d received a firm, decisive nod. He’d not been sure what to make of it at the time, but it’s been months now, and the press still haven’t found their way to the front door. He can’t help wondering if the determination behind that nod had anything to do with it.
Today, she comes past with her dog on the way to the park. “Steve away again?” He nods, letting her puppy enthusiastically snuffle his hands. “You okay for food?” He is, and he says so, but she grins knowingly. “You want more lasagne?” He grins back. “That’d be wonderful, thank you.”
A little later, the after-school crowd swarms past, and he trades greetings and the occasional fist bump.
Monique is at the tail end of the crowd, later than usual. One pigtail has come loose, which is normal enough, but she’s also walking carefully enough for Bucky to take a second glance. She’s deliberately walking along a sidewalk crack, he realizes and supresses a childhood wince.
She reaches the end of the crack, hops from there to a tree shadow, balances her way down a line between the paving stones, makes a last precarious leap to an ice-cream wrapper, and finally lunges to the apparent safety of Bucky’s stoop.
"Can’t go any further," she announces, panting dramatically.
"No?" He raises an eyebrow at her.
"Sidewalk’s lava," she says. "It’s getting worse."
He assesses the pavement. It’s another hundred yards between their stoops and the lunging distances between cracks, shadows, and litter are daunting for short legs. “That’s a lot of lava.”
"You’ve got super-everything, you can survive lava," she says, pointedly. "And you can jump further.” Her face is deadly serious, so he bites the inside of his mouth to hide his smile.
"Yeah, okay," he says, and she scrambles up the steps, miraculously no longer winded. He shifts up into a crouch and she clambers aboard, grabbing her own arms rather than his throat, which he rather appreciates. He hitches her up to his waist, securing her under the knees.
"We good?" he asks. She nods against his neck, and he picks his way down to the bottom step. "Right," he says. "I need some rock outcrops, here. Give me a terrain report."
She rests her chin on his shoulder, radiating intensity as she assesses. “That leaf, before it gets away.”
"Forward march," he grins, and jumps.